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1980 WBTV Blue Charlotte O's Counterfeit

Several have tried to take advantage of true fans of Ripken by selling counterfeit copies of his rare issue cards, with the 1980 blue Charlotte team issue being one of them. The following article was sent by Sports Collectors Digest ( in its July 28, 2005 eSCD E-Newsletter:


A counterfeit card problem centering on 1980s Star Co. basketball, Kenner Starting Lineups, Sportscasters and minor league baseball has been the subject of an investigation by card dealer Steve Taft and Sports Collectors Digest.

Most of the counterfeits SCD or Taft have purchased have been graded by Gem or its “premier” Gem Elite service. Taft first noticed the problem on eBay about a year ago. Taft began making sample buys, and they proved the counterfeit status.

Gem Grading is owned and operated by Timothy Lorber, who also runs Lorber told SCD he was disappointed Gem Grading holders contained counterfeits and that he does not run the company with any intent but to maintain high-quality standards. “When we sell cards, we give a 100-percent, money-back, 30-day guarantee, from any of the sales that we do,” Lorber said, including or his sportscardzz eBay ID. 

SCD asked Lorber if the counterfeits seemed to originate from one person or place. He said there were submissions, and his suspicion is that these came from Gibraltar (Mich.). He clarified that he meant the area, not specifically the show. “I do not know for sure,” he added. “We do not want counterfeits in Gem holders,” Lorber said. “I would buy those back. It’s not Gem’s policy to do that; we have turned away people who have offered us money to put cards in the holders that were not real.”

SCD has purchased about 20 cards in Gem grading holders, and only four or five were counterfeits. 

There have been sellers of Gem-graded cards on Yahoo!’s auction site as well, and those sellers offer a connection to the October, 2003, investigation by SCD. In that investigation, SCD discovered that counterfeits of 1963 Bazooka cards, 1921 W551 strip cards, 1931 W517 strip cards, 1947 Homogenized Bond Bread and 1952 Wheaties were being sold online by, among others, “Randy Howard” in Halifax, Pa. In this newer case, the Yahoo! Auctions seller IDs of “isellforu52296” and “consignmentsplus1” are both backed by the name “Randy Howard,” this time from Mechanicsburg, Pa. Both of those Yahoo! IDs have been inactive for the past several months, but when they were active earlier this year, those IDs offered not only the counterfeits described in this article, but also the Bond Bread and other similar cards that were targeted in that SCD investigation three years ago. Capitol Grading and FGA (Foremost Grading Authority) holders often contain fakes, too.

Taft said he believes these cards could be part of the largest counterfeit card operation ever. “A year ago, when it was rampant, there were multiple auctions going with counterfeit cards from multiple eBay sellers,” he said. “You could be talking maybe over $1 million in sales. That’s money that probably would have been spent with honest dealers.

“One of the cards that I saw fairly early in this was the 1989 Pittsburgh Greats Dan Marino. That’s about an $8 card. When you look at the fact that these guys have taken a card that will sell for $8-$10 and counterfeited it, that in itself is a huge message.”  

Unfortunately, copies of counterfeit 1980 blue Ripken cards were encapsulated by Gem Grading and I was a victim of purchasing a card encapsulated by this grading service. Rather than sell the card, I chose to keep the card for the purpose of helping other Ripken fans differentiate between the authentic copies from the fakes. I later gave the card to Bill Haelig, Authenticity Coordinator at Ironclad Authentics, which specializes in the development of programs and services which guarantees authentic hand-signed collectibles and licensed products. In addition to his work at Ironclad Authentics, Bill is a noted collector of Ripken memorabilia. In fact, Sports Illustrated named Bill as the "Iron Man of Cal Collectors" in its commemorative "2131" edition.

Counterfeit copies are still in circulation. However, knowing what you are looking for will benefit you when you have the opportunity to purchase this key card. On this page you will find photos and additional information to help you separate the real Ripken from the fakes. Regardless of what you learn from this page, take my advice: Only buy the card if it has been authenticated by a reputable grading service (PSA/SGC/BGS). If the Ripken card has not been authenticated, make sure you buy the card as a part of a complete team set.

Counterfeit (Left) & Authentic 1980 WBTV Cal Ripken, Jr.

How do I spot a 1980 WBTV counterfeit?

Spotting a counterfeit blue Ripken is not as hard as it may seem, especially after you learn what to look for. As mentioned earlier, I strongly suggest buying a copy of the card that has been graded by a reputable grading company. PSA, SGC and BGS have all graded copies of this card and have a good idea in regards to what they are looking for. However, it may not always be possible to purchase an authenticated copy of this card. If/When you are in a situation to purchase an unauthenticated copy of this card, ask if the seller has the remaining cards of the set. Although this does not guarantee the authenticity of the Ripken or even the remaining cards in the set, in does increase the likelihood of the authenticity of the Ripken and/or the remainder of the set. This is a key Ripken card and another "must have" for the Ripken collector. However, this is an expensive card and one with a history of being a counterfeit. With that being said, be careful when provided with the opportunity to add this gem to your collection. Please note that this is a list of suggestions. As technology continues to advance it will become more difficult to know an authentic copy from a fake by appearance only. 

There are ways that you can spot an authentic copy from the fake. Here are a few tips you can use, whether you are getting ready to add this card to your set or you are wanting to review your own card without sending it to a third party grading service:

  • The O's Logo on the Card

The color of the O's logo is the first sign of the authenticity of this card. Authentic copies of this card have a very bright orange O's logo, while fake varieities of this card typically have a reddish-orange logo. For example, consider the logos below

This is the O's logo on the front of an authenticated copy of the 1980 WBTV Charlotte Orioles card of Cal Ripken, Jr. Notice the brightness of the orange is in the O's logo. Although this may not seem like much, consider the color of the logo on the left in contrast to the O's logo on a counterfeit.

This is the O's logo on the front of a counterfeit copy of the 1980 WBTV Charlotte Orioles card of Cal Ripken, Jr. When you see the distortion in the color of the logo, it is your first and biggest sign that the card you are looking at is a fake. For the record, the bright orange O's logo appears on the bottom right corner of all 28 cards in the WBTV set.

  • The Framing of the Ripken Picture

Possibly by a twist of fate, the white border that surrounds the image of the 19 year old infielder is a shield protecting collectors from counterfeit copies some 26 years later. On all of the cards in the set, the image is surrounded by a white border. On the Ripken card, the white border protects collectors in two ways:

First, the width of the vertical white line is greater on the right side than the left side on authentic copies of the WBTV Ripken. However, this probably isn't a worry for many willing to risk counterfeiting the card.

Second, the horizontal white line in the border isn't a perfect line at the top and bottom of the frame on an authentic WBTV Ripken. This is better explained visually:

The above image is of the top of a counterfeit WBTV Ripken. Not only is the top white line a perfect line, you will see that the vertical width of the left side is wider than the vertical width of the right side, which is inconsistent with the authenticity of this card. Compare this scan to a scan of an authenticated copy of the card:

The above image is the top of an authenticated WBTV Ripken. You will see that the top horizontal white line is not a perfect line and has a noticable dip and raise as it goes from the left side of the card to the right. In addition, you will see that the vertical width of the line on the left side of the card is slimmer than the vertical width of the line on the right side of the card. For the record, this is not the only time that a dip appears in the horizontal white line surrounding the image of Cal on the blue and orange Charlotte cards. In the next two images, you will see the horizontal white line on the bottom of an authentic and counterfeit 1980 Charlotte O's WBTV.

The above image is the bottom of a counterfeit WBTV Ripken. As with the horizontal line on the top of this card, you will see that the line is a perfect line. Compare this line to the next image of the bottom of an authenticated WBTV Ripken.

The above image is the bottom of an authenticated WBTV Ripken. You will see that the horizontal white line is not a perfect line and has another noticeable dip as it goes from the left side of the card to the right. In the images of the bottoms of the cards another red flag should go up when looking at a counterfeit. In the image of the counterfeit, you see that there is a noticeable dark outline of the white border. On the authentic copy, there is no dark outline separating the image from the white border. Keep the framing of Cal's image in mind as you are looking over a potential addition to your collection. For the record, the lines surrounding the image of Cal on the 1980 WBTV and 1980 Charlotte Police cards are identical. To reiterate this point, take a look at the following images:

Top Lines on Authenticated WBTV and Charlotte Police Issues

Bottom Lines on Authenticated WBTV and Charlotte Police Issues

  • The Stock of the Card

The authenticity of the set is also protected in something that actually hindered the ability to keep the set in great condition - the paper the cards were printed on. The paper that the blue and orange Charlotte cards were printed on was a very thin and flimsy stock. In fact, it is not uncommon to be able to see the printing from the back of an orange card when looking at the front of an orange card. The disadvantage of this tip is that to review the stock of the card, you have to purchase the card in person and/or be dealing with someone that is willing to let you take the card from its protective case.

The good news for you as a collector is that there are authenticated copies of the blue and orange Ripken Charlotte cards from time to time. Buying an authenticated copy will keep you from the guesswork on the authenticity. Will it cost more to have an authenticated copy? Yes. Is the additional cost worth it? Absolutely. You may have to use some patience as you wait for a copy, but it truly is better to be safe than sorry. In the event that you choose to go the route of buying a Charlotte Ripken card of Cal that has not been authenticated, be sure to look at the warning signs. In addition, remember that even with the tips provided above for spotting a fake, new advancements is made in technology every single day. As technology advances, the ability to recreate a more authentic looking copy of this card will take place. If I can ever be of any assistance, feel free to contact me at any time at [email protected]

PSA Slabs Counterfeit Ripken Minor League Issues

In 2001, Beckett Grading Services revealed information on how to spot a 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings card #1 of Cal Ripken, Jr. In the article, Beckett revealed how to spot a genuine WTF Ripken issue from a fraud on their website at

The genuine card is printed on an off-white card stock, nearly yellowed, or ‘dirty-white,’ whereas the fake/reprint is on vivid bright white stock

The original weighs much more than the fake (1.73 grams compared to 1.49 grams on the fake) although both cards feel fairly thin to the touch.

The dot pattern is a mild giveaway, but it is very close to the original. Primarily, the fake will have more specks of white scattered about the front photo, and will have more areas of lightly broken text on the back.

The key area to examine is over Ripken's right shoulder, atop the roof. There should be a box shape -- a flag-like image or something similar -- on the very edge of the card. On the fake, most of this box has been obliterated.

Such early detection of this counterfeit by one of the big three third party grading services certainly provided collectors with a sense of security. In fact, in a February 2, 2007, article written by Doug Koztoski for Sports Collectors Digest, I stated that collectors should purchase copies of Cal’s minor league cards that have been graded by the most reputable professional card grading companies.

I’m sorry. In an auction that ended on May 1, 2007, I won an auction for a PSA 9 (cert 31796188) 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings Cal Ripken, Jr (Ebay 220106272908). Considering that a PSA 9 copy had sold for $1,924.00 on March 18, 2007 (Ebay 110102273191), I was especially thrilled.

Then the card arrived. It was a counterfeit.

Unfortunately I had not taken some of my other advice offered on my website,, when I suggested that collectors only purchase Ripken minor league issues when they came with the rest of the set. In addition, I did not ask for a larger scan of the card during the duration of the auction. I simply trusted in the PSA slab saying the card was authentic. Bill Haelig is the owner of the most comprehensive Cal Ripken, Jr. card & memorabilia collection as well as the Authenticity Coordinator at Ironclad Authentics, Cal's own memorabilia company. Bill is not surprised that a fake was slabbed. “I'm not surprised that PSA graded these cards as authentic. My reasoning is that they couldn't have handled enough of them relative to their ‘normal’ influx of cards to have any real expertise. Again, out of all the WTF cards they have graded, how many were of Cal vs. how many were of Bob Bonner, Drungo Hazewood, etc. The majority of what they saw was Cal obviously. This particular manufacturer was a ‘one issue’ one that they had little to compare it to. To back up his point, the current population report reflects 115 graded 1981 WTF cards, with card #1 of Cal making up 77.4% of the total. The checklist card #20 that includes Ripken ranks second with 20%. Only three other non-Ripken WTF cards (Brooks Carey, Drungo Hazewood, Steve Luebber) have ever been submitted and were certified in the spring of 2007, making the non-Ripken population under 3%. Haelig is less than impressed. So 97% of EVERY WTF card was either Cal or the checklist card (with Cal)? How could they establish any kind of expertise in this issue? Did they garner knowledge in the 1955 Bowman set by examining the Mickey Mantle cards or the Billy Loes cards of the world? Did they obtain expertise in the 1975 set by examining George Brett or Enos Cabell? It reeks of provincial incompetence if you ask me; I wouldn't consider changing my opinion until they initiate a public recall of the cards they graded.

PSA did issue a reimbursement for the final sale price of the WTF counterfeit card plus the amount for shipping and insurance once they confirmed it was a fake. However, the refund does not erase the disappointment of not upgrading my PSA 8 to a PSA 9. The reimbursement also does not ease any concerns about a possible market impact on a market already plagued with counterfeits. Haelig added the following: I think there is great impact on this, particularly for those card sets that weren't manufactured by the ‘big boys’ (Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Upper Deck, Bowman, Goudey, etc). Look at all the regional sets (which the majority of minor league sets are). I now look at all of those with a jaded eye. How do we know there aren't any PSA graded bogus Charlotte cards out there? Of course the TCMA card remains a possibility as well.

It wasn’t long after receiving the counterfeit that I warned fellow collectors with a warning about the slabbed WTF counterfeit while giving PSA time to evaluate and confirm that my card was a fake. It was at this time that I received a note of concern from Trevor Dovey, a fellow Ripken minor league card collector, about the authenticity of his PSA 9 (cert 03427907) 1981 WTF Cal Ripken, Jr. After looking at scans of the Dovey PSA 9 WTF Ripken I determined it was also a fake. Once again, PSA offered a full refund for the card once they determined it to be a counterfeit.

Here is Trevor’s recollection on how he received the card:

I bought my WTF PSA 9 for $185.00 Buy It Now off EBay. I bought it on August 13, 2006. I was very excited when I bought it because I hit the By It Now 5 minutes into the auction. I thought I got an amazing deal on a so called authentic PSA 9 Ripken. When I got home later that night I checked completed listings just to see if any PSA 9’s had sold recently and one had sold a few days before I bought mine. It sold for $900.00. I am not sure if it was real or not.

The good news is that PSA is now fully aware of the counterfeit WTF issues. However, how much damage has been done? After all, we do know that it’s been 6 years since someone found out that BGS would not certify a counterfeit. We also know that as late as the spring of 2007 that PSA certified a counterfeit WTF issue. As of May 1, 2007, the population report stated there were 90 1981 WTF cards of Cal graded, with 23 PSA 9’s and 1 PSA 10. Although it’s a small sample size, we do know that 8.6% of that total PSA 9 population report as of May 1, 2007, was counterfeit. It is important to note that since purchasing the fake, PSA has deleted 1 PSA 9 from the registry. Under cert 03427907, now lists the grade of what was once a PSA 9 as Not Holdered, Questionable Authentication.

Where do we go from here? Trevor Dovey suggested the following: I would like to see PSA try to track down the rest of the 90 graded WTF copies. I think they should let it be known that there are fake cards in PSA slabs (have an article in magazines and also on online forums). Hopefully they can buy back all the fakes and reconstruct the population report. This way people will know how rare this card actually is. Bill Haelig also feels that serious steps should be taken by PSA. If PSA was serious about this, they would offer a public ‘recall’ of any WTF Ripken they graded for another inspection.

The minor league cards of Cal Ripken, Jr, provide an often unseen glimpse of one of the great players and individuals of our generation. As collectors, it is our responsibility to uphold the integrity of our great hobby, especially on a market with so many knowingly taking advantage of others. The bad news is that this is a reminder of what is bad with our hobby. The good news is that the opportunity is here to do something about it.

To view images of the PSA slabbed counterfeit WTF issues, please visit the gallery at

How do I spot a 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings Counterfeit?

In 2001, the great folks at conducted a series of articles on counterfeit cards in the market. The series included several cards of Cal, including the 1982 Donruss RC, 1982 Topps RC and 1982 Topps Traded RC. In part 16 of the series, Beckett took a close look at the 1981 WTF Rochester card of Cal Ripken Jr. Here is what the Beckett Grading Services Staff had to say in their 8/15/2001 report:

As Cal Ripken Jr.'s farewell tour progresses, it seems that a new influx of counterfeits has hit the market. It's quite common for new counterfeits to appear when a player suddenly enters (or re-enters) the national limelight. In Ripken's case, a small handful of new fakes have popped up suddenly. 

This week, we will look at the 1981 Rochester Red Wings WTF Ripken minor league card. Although not his highest priced minor league card, this tough team-issue is still one of the cornerstones of a Ripken collection. 

This fake is extremely tricky simply because most people are unfamiliar with minor league issues and have never seen the original card. As we've displayed below, held side-by-side to a genuine card, the bright white stock is easy to spot. However, most people do not have a genuine copy on hand for comparison. The genuine card is printed on an off-white card stock, nearly yellowed, or "dirty-white," as shown at left, whereas the fake/reprint is on vivid bright white stock. The original weighs much more than the fake (1.73 grams compared to 1.49 grams on the fake) although both cards feel fairly thin to the touch.

The dot pattern is a mild giveaway, but it is very close to the original. Primarily, the fake will have more specks of white scattered about the front photo, and will have more areas of lightly broken text on the back.

As displayed above, the key area to examine is over Ripken's right shoulder, atop the roof. There should be a box shape -- a flag-like image or something similar -- on the very edge of the card. On the fake, most of this box has been obliterated.

Cal Ripken Jr. has become a representative for all that is good and fair in baseball, so much so that it's painful to see these kind of counterfeits emerge. Hopefully, with the right information, collectors can avoid these bogus cards.

Articles and images courtesy of

1981 Rochester Promo Cards

Up until the week of October 25, 2009, there were no known counterfeits involving the 1981 TCMA Rochester Red Wings card of Cal Ripken, Jr. This all changed when a seller from Grand Rivers, Kentucky, listed a pair of "1981 Rochester Red Wings Cal Ripken Promo Rookie Card(s)" (Ebay 150384365141, 370282103629). The cards were slabbed by PCA Grading ( and were graded Gem Mint 10. The cards featured Cal's image from his 1981 TCMA trading card with no text on the front of the card. The back of the card had a white back with the words "Cal Ripken Jr. 1981 Rochester Red Wings Promotional Card."

Michael Aronstein is the legendary collector who established TCMA and produced Cal's 1981 Rochester Red Wings card. When asked about the authenticity of the promo cards he stated that the cards were, "not even a good scam." RITM followed up with Michael and asked the following questions:

Did TCMA produce any promotional cards of Cal Ripken, Jr., in a minor league uniform?

Was the image of Cal from the 1981 TCMA card ever used for another TCMA card?

Did TCMA ever grant permission for anyone else to use Cal's 1981 Rochester picture for any other use?

Michael responded, "NO, NO, NO"

After presenting the information to the seller, both listings were removed. However, a third copy (Ebay 120485675488) from a seller in Panama City, Florida, appeared the following week. A fourth copy (Ebay 110452805918) from a seller in Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania, appeared the same week. Both copies were graded Gem Mint 10 by PCA. However, the Pennsylvania copy included the words "Cal Ripken Jr 1981 Rochester Red Wings" on the front of the card with a blank back, making it different from the other three copies. 

Please use caution when purchasing any of Cal's minor league cards. For more information about spotting counterfeits of other varieties of Cal's minor league cards, please vitis our Spotting Counterfeits page. 

Topps Auctions Bogus Ripken RC Sheet

“Be careful', "Do you homework', and 'Look for authentication' are some of the most repeated warnings given at RITM. These foundations of buyer confidence was challenged in 2007 when PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) slabbed a counterfeit 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings card #1 (certification #31796188) as authentic. This was some six years after Beckett first released warnings about spotting counterfeit versions of the card. What we learned is that even trustworthy sources are human.

In October of 2008, the Topps Company reminded us that they are human as well. According to their ebay ( store page (ebay ID thetoppsvault), The Topps Vault offers a fast, safe way to find and purchase unique items directly from Topps, the unrivaled name in pop culture and sports. The Topps Vault auctions are exclusive to eBay and include new and vintage uncut sheets, one-of-a-kind original art, unique production materials, and much more. All auctions lots come with a Certificate of Authenticity.

With such a name and history, having the opportunity to buy directly from the source should eliminate any concerns when it comes to authentication. However, The Topps Vault auction (ebay 200268590346) that was listed as a 1982 Topps 8 Card Proof RC Sheet Cal Ripken Jr. was not an original or proof at all. The uncut sheet, which regularly appear online, featured an uncut sheet of 8 of card #21. The cards were blank backed, as they did not have text on the backs.

Bill Haelig, noted Ripken collector, is familiar with the sheets. Bill states, The story goes that they were sold during the glory time period of the mid 1990's at shows in the New York City area. As a matter of fact, I sent a letter to SCD about these back in the day for the "Readers Respond" section warning collectors about these. 

Once he noted the error, Bill contacted the Topps Vault about their auction.

The auction ended on November 3rd with a bid of $519.09 when "The seller ended this listing early to sell to the high bidder(s) at current bid price." According to a representative at the Topps Vault, the sheet was not sold, but removed due to the fact that it may have been a reprint. The Topps Vault later stated that the sheet appears to be a reprint.

Although the auction was pulled, Haelig still has his concerns about the possible impact of the auction. The consequences of Topps (highly respected card manufacturer) selling this sheet are wide reaching. Not only would a collector be ripped off buying this uncut sheet from them (last bids were in excess of $500 in the midst of a tough economy) but more troublesome, it would ‘lend credence’ to the 1000's of bogus sheets and cards that have been circulating in the hobby for over 15 years, opening doors for dishonest sellers to sell theirs for a new found premium by simply comparing theirs to one that Topps Vault ‘certified.’

Fortunately Topps was willing to take responsibility for the auction. However, this is another reminder that even the most trustworthy of sources is no reason to let your guard down when purchasing Ripken memorabilia. To view a gallery of images from the auction, please visit our gallery at the following:

November 2017: First Bulk Appearance of 1980 Charlotte O's WBTV and Police Reprints

Leading up to the fall of 2017, my stance on the possibilities of counterfeit/reprinted copies of Cal's 1980 Charlotte O's WBTV and Police issues were well documented. While recognizing the legitimate possibility of counterfeit/reprinted copies being out there, I felt the likelihood was small for two reasons:

1. Card Population

2. Card value

Buyer protection was assisted by the facts that someone wanting to reproduce the card would have a hard time purchasing a copy due the supply/demand as well as the cost to obtain a copy. The only way around this would be if an owner was willing to share a high resolution copy of the card. Even without proof of counterfeits/reproductions on the market, this site has always taken the stance of buying authenticated copies of Cal's minor league cards from a reputable third party authenticator. 

In November of 2017, the first batch of "Reprints" hit the secondary market. The lots were posted on eBay in lots of 100. The listings clearly identified the cards as reprints. However, there was no marking on the cards to identify them as reprints. Copies of the card featured the full front as well as the back with the Third Base Hints and Crime Prevention tips from the Charlotte Police Department. The listing noted that the cards were the standard size of a trading card (2.5 x 3.5) and had a standard card thickness. The seller noted that the cards had a glossy finish on both sides of the card. Since then, the cards have appeared in smaller lots or singles.

For anyone that has researched the 1980 Charlotte O's WBTV and Police cards, the thickness and gloss of the cards would be red flags to anyone questioning the authenticity of the cards. However, as printing technology continues to evolve, it could be possible that counterfeit/reprinted copies of Cal's "Holy Grail" are out there that better mimic the stock and feel of a true 1980 Charlotte O's WBTV or Police issue. For these reasons, RITM urges collectors interested in adding any of Cal's minor league issues to do their homework before making any purchase.